The premise of Fatherhood is more than serviceable. Based on the bestselling memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love, it documents widowed father Matthew Logelin’s struggle to overcome the sudden death of his wife, raise his daughter solo, and balance the onslaught of fraught emotions that inevitably inflict him along the way. This is no doubt as to why the book was adapted; its particular blend of sadness and sweetness make it prime material for a schmaltzy Hollywood tearjerker that, given the tale’s cavalcade of grief, should be at least decently engaging. But, actually, the cinematic version that’s ultimately received, arriving just in time for Father’s Day weekend, is perplexingly humdrum.
Taking the obligatory “serious turn” that most comedy actors do, Kevin Hart plays single dad Matt, who is friendly, caring, attentive, professional and financially stable – but inexplicably not cut out to raise baby daughter, Maddy. There isn’t much evidence that he’s too immature, yet this is his mother and in-laws’ reasoning for getting involved. Matt is inexperienced – sure – but is no less equipped for fatherhood than any other first-time parent. Maybe the “deadbeat dad” idea is too clichéd, but it would have provided bigger dramatic obstacles in Matt’s journey to becoming a great father. As it is, supporting characters’ strange scepticism of Matt is the movie’s first big flaw.
Things don’t pick up from there. Coupled with some awful jokes (in the form of the actors’ goofy improv), what follows is a plot that tells viewers little and takes ages to do it. After Matt’s wife’s death early on, the next major turning point is the meeting of his new girlfriend – two events that are separated by a very vacant 50 minutes. This time passes with a story presenting few to no stakes, nor does it properly explore Matt’s grief or his attempts to heal. Additionally, further dramatic elements are quickly thwarted, which only maintains the story’s flat mawkishness. For example, when new girlfriend Liz (DeWanda Wise) poses a wedge that will possibly come between Matt and Maddy, the conflict is regrettably cancelled to instead form another friendship. It’s nice when all of the characters in a movie get along, but this doesn’t beg much investment from an audience.
Fatherhood’s source material had a foolproof recipe for a good story, but is instead uneventful and laced with intolerable comedy – probably not the Father’s Day gift anyone was hoping for.
Fatherhood is released on Netflix on 18th June 2021.
Watch the trailer for Fatherhood here: